Kidney Here, Tears There

would alternate closely, Springs saying he felt so good he thought something was wrong. Walls saying his stitches hurt "and I got gas in my stomach." They vowed to spend the rest of their lives advocating organ donation, the two becoming living examples of how this saves lives.

We learned there are nearly 70,000 people in this country on the kidney transplant waiting list, and a staggering one-third of those are African-Americans, the largest of all minorities on the list. We learned that people with diabetes undergoing dialysis, as Springs has for the past three years, have a 30-percent survival rate, but 70 percent when given a new kidney.

So no wonder Springs soon turned to Everson, and mustering all the strength he still has, raised a shaking fist to give his buddy a little dap.

"He's my boy, and he knows he is," Springs said.

Understand, too, the gravity of Walls' decision. It's not like he was loaning the guy a cup of sugar or his car for the weekend. We're talking a kidney here. Yeah, we each got two of 'em, and we can survive on one. But what happens if you donate one, and the lone one you have then goes bad?

Would you do it? Who would it have to be to merit such a sacrifice? Think about it. Know that Walls did. For months.

Springs had been searching for a match. His son Shawn matched. But he wouldn't let him do it. Wanted him to finish out his NFL career. He had a niece and nephew match. But his niece, at age 44, became pregnant. She was out. The nephew? Well, after thorough examination, his kidney wasn't strong enough to survive the transfer.

Springs was still waiting, and Walls was still hurting, watching his once strong friend shrivel away. Walls told Springs his blood type was a similar O, and that he would go get checked. Four months later, maybe not really wanting to know the truth, Walls got checked out. He didn't even tell Springs.

"When I finally found out," Springs said of the match, "I said, 'You ready?'

"He said, 'Oh no, I'm not ready. I'll be ready in three months.'"

Walls did some serious soul-searching, and in the meantime, word got out he was going to donate his kidney. Not just around here, mind you. Nationally. How could he ever now say no?

So as recent as two weeks ago Dr. Dickerman approached Walls one last time, and as Walls admitted, he still hadn't fully come to grips with his decision.

"I told him this might be something you really didn't want to do and you got pushed into (the limelight)," Dr. Dickerman said of his conversation with Walls. He was just wanting to make sure Walls was totally cool with this.

And if he wasn't?

"I told him I'd give him a medical out," said Dr. Dickerman, knowing no one else would ever know why the transplant never took place. "But (Walls) said, 'No Doc, I really want to do this.'"

Know also Walls' decision wasn't just about himself. He's been married to Shreill more than 20 years. They have a couple of kids. And as he said, had he married someone else, this might not have been possible.

Fate is mighty powerful. As Springs said, God paved this path 25 years ago, a veteran fullback watching some undrafted kid from Grambling State who grew up just up the road from the old Cowboys practice complex not only make the team, but earning a starting job as a rookie free agent. The rest is history.

Go figure.

But the truly amazing road to what happened two days ago goes deeper than that. Springs realized it, too, and he would give his thanks, Walls said:

"Ron made the statement to my mother he wanted to thank her for having me . . . ."

Walls broke down. He shed some tears. Again, right there with the rest of us.

His mom, Ouida Walls, was there in the room with the rest of us. She said it happened Wednesday morning at the hospital before the surgery when she was wishing Everson good luck.

Maybe that's the word for today. Good luck. Because as Dr. Dickerman said, pointing out first he's a surgeon, not God, but that "I don't know how long Ron is going to live, but I know he'll live a lot longer with a kidney than he would have on dialysis.

"I think you'll see a dramatically changed man."

Evidently Springs

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